New Apple Research Indicates AirPods Pro Can Be Used to Remotely Measure Respiratory Rate

BY Mahit Huilgol

Published 12 Aug 2021

Apple AirPods Pro With Apple iPhone 11 Pro

Apple and Cornell University conducted research that reveals how one can estimate respiratory rate remotely using AirPods and AirPods Pro. The new method facilitates remote and cost-effective estimation of respiratory rate.

Respiratory rate is an important metric used to track disease progression, overall health, and cardiovascular fitness. Typically patients are required to visit a healthcare facility and take respiratory tests for further analysis. The latest research by Apple and Cornell showcases a remote method to estimate the respiratory rate. It uses short audio segments sourced right after physical activity. Thus respiratory rate in healthy adults is estimated using model-driven approach.

Respiratory rate (RR) is a clinical metric used to assess overall health and physical fitness. An individual’s RR can change due to normal activities like physical exertion during exercise or due to chronic and acute illnesses. Remote estimation of RR offers a cost-effective method to track disease progression and cardio-respiratory fitness over time. This work investigates a model-driven approach to estimate RR from short audio segments obtained after physical exertion in healthy adults.

The research is based on data collected from 21 individuals with the help of near-field headphones alongside a microphone. The study zeroed in on a “viable signal for passively estimating” respiratory rates remotely. The resulting breathlessness scores is used to guage severity of diseases like peripheral artery disease and other respiratory disorders. Signal clarity is achieved with the help of a multi-level convolutional neural network. On a related note, researchers recently blamed ‘black boxes’ for unreliable Apple Watch health data.

RR can be estimated with a concordance correlation coefficient (CCC) of 0.76 and a mean squared error (MSE) of 0.2, demonstrating that audio can be a viable signal for passively estimating RR.

Our Take

Rumors suggest Apple will add a health monitoring feature to AirPods Pro next year. Furthermore, the updated AirPods Pro is expected to arrive with additional sensors to aid fitness tracking. It makes us wonder whether future AirPods will come equipped with more advanced near-field microphones. Let us know what you think of Apple’s latest research.

[via Apple]